Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My blog ate my homework.

Well, actually, it was my camera. I had a nice post all laid out, just waiting for pictures of my Ultimate Geek Manicure, but when I went to load the photos onto my computer, they were gone. Of course, by that point, so was my manicure. So, in lieu of more challenge geekery, allow me to distract you with a post that was intended for later this week:

I've mentioned that I have allergies on this blog a few times before. I thought that it was time I talked about them a little more, particularly since they have a major effect on the bath and beauty supplies that I purchase.

Here is a list of everything I'm allergic to:
Soy/Soya protein
Soy grain/flour
95% of fragrances/perfumes, but specifically synthetic cucumber

Apricots are a new addition to the list, and a sad one. I love apricots, but they've always messed with my stomach a little, so I only ate them in small quantities. Monday morning, though, I woke up with a rash on my arms and shoulders--the same one I got from my conditioner. Now, I haven't used that conditioner since that post. I've had no problems. But, when I told my mom I was allergic to it, she said she had a bottle of the old formula and gave it to me. I happily accepted and used it last night.

Monday was my forth allergic reaction since Friday. I felt like I'd been hit by a bus, and wound up coming home early from work. The first thing I did was line up all of my conditioners (the two I'm allergic to with my standard daily conditioner and the replacement leave-in). I started with the Argon Oil Sleek n Shine. At first, I thought it was the argon oil causing the problem, but that's the only thing I have that contains it. So I wrote down all of the ingredients. Then I took the second bottle (original formula), and put a checkmark next to anything that was duplicated. Then I grabbed my Length and Strength conditioner. Anything that was contained in all three, I crossed off the list. Then, just to be sure, I checked it against the new conditioner. The only ingredient that both of the Sleek n Shine formulas contain that is NOT in the other two was Apricot kernal oil. I have to assume, with my history, that if I'm allergic to the oil, I'm probably either allergic to the fruit already or I will be soon.

I guess this means I won't be going back to St. Ives the next time I buy face scrub.

This type of testing and trial and error has become (unfortunately) commonplace in our household. The cheesecake that my roommate bought to celebrate my latest pattern going viral made me really sick, because it contained soy protein. One bite of a granola bar made with soy flour or grain can make my through and tongue swell, and twice I've had to leave work or go to lunch early to get allergy medication because a bottle of perfume broke and it either got on my skin, or it spilled in a place where I couldn't avoid it.

The kicker for me is that almost everything nowadays contains fragrances. Not all of them bother me, but most do. If I go the all natural route, then it's almost guaranteed to contain soy. While only the protein and grains bother me right now, I have to think that at some point, I will need to cross soy lecathin (an emulsifier used in pretty much everything) and soybean oil off my list of "approved" foods as well.

If you have or have recently developed allergies like mine, then there is no quick fix. At some point I will look into allergy shots, but right now that is out of my budget and my insurance won't cover it. If you are able to see your doctor, then do so. S/he will be much more able to help you than I can. The following list are a few things that I've picked up for myself, but are no substitute for professional advice.

1. Read the labels. Always. Every time. When it comes to things like soy and perfumes, they can sneak in anywhere, trust me.
2. Always test new products before using them. Just as you would with a home hair color kit, always preform a patch test. Dab a little bit of the product in question on your wrist or the inside of your elbow, where you are more sensitive, and wait a couple of days before using the product. Contact dermatitis (the skin reaction I had to the conditioner) can take a few exposures to show up, so you might want to do a couple of tests over the course of a week or two if you are suspicious.
3. Know your symptoms. Know what is normal for you when exposed to something you're allergic to. For example, I know that soy protein makes me break out around the mouth, and that it can--not often--but it can cause breathing issues. This weekend was the first time I've had a stomach problem, but usually I catch it within a bite or two, not a slice or two. The Sleek n Shine incident is the first time I've had a skin reaction to anything in memory. Monday's incident was much worse than any previous one, with some pretty bad swelling involved and a really bad itch that cortizone cream barely touched. More and severe symptoms means the allergy is getting worse.
4. Know the symptoms of anaphylaxis. Hives, breathing issues, coughing, vomiting, and elevated blood pressure, among others, are all signs of an allergic reaction. It can happen in seconds and quickly become life threatening, so if you have an allergy, it is important to track those symptoms before they become life threatening.
5. Always carry allergy medication or an EPI pen if you have one. Thankfully, my allergies have never caused a severe enough allergic reaction to merit a trip to the hospital, but that means I've also never been prescribed an EPI pen. Since I usually have at least an hour before my symptoms become really bad, I carry allergy pills with me wherever I go. I usually take Zyrtec in the morning (the Kroger brand, which is $4.50 for 12 days), and my doctor recommended taking Claratin in case of emergency. Benadryl is more common, but it puts me to sleep and since most of my reactions happen at work, I still need to be able to drive myself home.
6. Invest in a medic alert bracelet. These can be a little expensive (usually $15-25, but sometimes more, available at most pharmacies), but they're worth it. Allergic reactions tend to get more severe with age and exposure, so if there is ANY chance that it could become life threatening, you need to get one of these, especially if one of your allergies includes any medications, or if you have a chronic disease such as diabetes. They also are available as pendants. Many of them can be engraved, or come with labels that you you can put on them with your allergies and other medical conditions. Mine also opens up to include a list of allergies, conditions, and emergency contacts. These tend to be horrifically ugly and masculine, but they're also really important. This is what I did to mine so that I would be willing to wear it:

7. Always keep your receipts. If an item happens to sneak by you, or a new allergy develops, hang on to your receipt. If only a small portion (1-3 uses worth) of product is missing from the container, most stores will still take it back if you explain that you had a reaction to it.
8. Remove yourself from exposure. If, like me, you work in an area surrounded by things that can kill you, do your best to remove yourself from the situation. Trade duties with a coworker so that you don't have to handle the items directly, ask to be transferred to a difference department, or, as I've been forced to do, seek alternative employment.

Tomorrow I will be back to work and it will be business as usual, but since I've had an average of one reaction every six weeks since January, I think it's time to change jobs. If you know of anyone who could use a professional knitter, let me know. In the mean time, I'll be over here in my gloves and mask, trying to breathe.

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